On causes of terrorism

by Wm. Robert Johnston
November 2001

The recent editorial by A. Oppenheimer (11-16) blames a lack of U.S. foreign aid for increased terrorism. Oppenheimer's case falls apart when his facts are checked.

The claims that America is the least generous country are false. The single greatest source of aid to Afghanistan for the last decade has been the U.S. Oppenheimer dwells on foreign aid, but ignores much. The U.S. is the single greatest source of foreign aid, the largest contributer (and one of the largest contributors by percent of GNP) to the United Nations, and the largest source of private international charitable aid.

Moreover, the U.S. more than any other country sacrifices its resources and its children to protect the freedom of others. The other industrialized nations have the money for international aid because the U.S. has shouldered much of their defense costs.

His claims on the domestic front are false, too; the South did not escape poverty due to federal funds, but when it made the economic transition and recovery from what the North did to it in the Civil War. Does he actually not know where federal funds come from? It never ceases to amaze me that the federal government can take people's money, give a fraction back, and be called generous.

Oppenheimer claims that poverty causes terrorism. Why then were the recent attacks caused by hijackers from Saudi Arabia, which has one of the world's highest per capita incomes, and masterminded by one of the world's wealthiest men? There is no correlation between poverty and terrorism; the IRA, SLA, Red Army Faction, and Aum Shikoryo all arose in wealthy industrialized nations.

Terrorism springs from evil. If that's not enough, terrorism can be linked to hatred, disregard for human life, lack of empathy, and a desire for disproportionate political power. This last may explain Oppenheimer's confusion; terrorism is about exerting power, not about helping people.

Tom Clancy once said, "There are no smart terrorists because the smart ones go to law school." Historically, smart revolutionaries have used political channels to deny freedom. Today, we face a smart terrorist who went to terror school. Even worse, this terrorist is not a lone wolf but in part an instrument of the governments of several enemy nations.

© 2001, 2008 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 27 January 2008.
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